The City of Rome: Creating an Environment for Tech Investment and Talent

What does “top-line growth” mean to communities?

It means, “How do we attract investment as community-builders?” for Rome City Manager, Sammy Rich, “How do we reach the next level? How do we develop more diverse population and industry?”

The answers involve using technology to engage citizens, operate more effectively, and demonstrate that your community is tech-friendly.

“Citizens increasingly expect immediate response from local government via digital technology,” according to Rich. “Communities must have the right environment to attract technology investment and talent.”

“Local government has to be the centerpiece to keep everyone talking.”

The City of Rome has been leading the conversation by doing. It uses technology extensively in its operations, such as radio-read water meters and mobile computers for public safety officers.

One key to effective technology investment: Collaboration. The City of Rome collaborates extensively with private sector and other public sector organizations.

Rome and Floyd County jointly operate fire, waste, and water & sewer services. “We have more inter-governmental agreements than any city that’s not consolidated,” noted Sammy.

This collaboration has allowed the city and county to reduce technology costs and improve services to citizens. The city and county share fiber optic connections, phone and radio systems, and even a web site. A big part of this collaboration was simply choosing compatible systems and technologies.

Picture of MyRome app on smartphone
How the MyRome app looks on a citizens’ smartphone.

Now Rome is taking its technology to the next level with a smart phone application that allows citizens to report of public works problems and track resolution.

MyRome demonstrates the city’s openness and responsiveness, characteristics that are important to techies. It also improves the city’s performance.

MyRome is actually a complete work order system with public access. Behind MyRome is a web-based application to manage workflow, assign workers to jobs, track resource utilization, and make sure work meets service level agreement criteria. It has greatly increased everyone’s ability to analyze public works, not just submit service requests.

MyRome sends alerts for street closings and similar activities. It can be used to report problems with private property, as well as public streets and facilities. City employees such as law enforcement are using it along with average citizens.

And, MyRome integrates with the city’s billing and scheduling systems, so it cuts down on paper documents and miscommunication.

The public works dashboard for MyRome
MyRome also provides a web app for tracking public works tasks.

The software is provided to Rome as a service by Public Stuff, Inc., which customized the applications, handles the hosting, and maintains the data about service requests, fulfillment, etc.

“Software-as-a-service makes sense,” said Johnny Bunch, Rome’s information technology director, “because we could never afford to build something like this.”

The City of Rome is capitalizing on technology other ways, small and large. Sammy Rich does Q&A via Facebook, and various city departments use social media to stay in touch with citizens. The city is looking at private partnerships to provide next generation wireless services using local governments’ radio towers. And, Rome has joined Next Century Cities, which supports community leaders across the country to ensure access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet.

Possibly the most exciting opportunity for Rome’s future comes from the past: the old Northwest Regional Georgia Hospital in Rome.

The city wants to redevelop it as a mixed-use home for technology companies and as a medical and education hub. The plan envisions a 130-acre “Google-esque campus” with central green space and technology built into every part of it.

Sammy sees the site as a regional asset and a regional opportunity. “If you want to accomplish a mission,” Sammy maintains, “at the end of the day, it works better if you work together.”

The City of Rome is demonstrating the truth of this every day as it uses technology to attract investment and better serve its citizens.